The Purdue women's basketball team started out with an exhibition game against Clarke today. Not sure where Clarke is, and this was not a fair matchup. But exhibition games tend to go that way.
There were a few hiccups in the first half, as can be expected as we are working a lot of new players into the rotation. Joslyn Massey, Camille Redmon, and Liza Clemons didn't see a lot of action last year. Not playing at all last year are Whitney Bays, Torrie Thornton, and the true freshmen Bridget Perry and Ashley Morrissette. Yes we lost a record breaking rebounder in Sam O and the ultimate inspirational player with versatility in Drey Mingo, but it sure looks like we will be fine replacing them by committee.
Courtney Moses played like an All-American. KK Houser, April Wilson, and Ashley Morrissette took turns at the point, with Courtney also bringing the ball up sometimes. The real wow factor was Bridget Perry. She is going to present other teams with a matchup nightmare. She works hard, is afraid of no one or anything, and in her very first public appearance kind of stole the show. Expect her to start, probably sooner than later.
Rumors of post deficiencies may be premature. Redmon and Clemons played so much better than last year that they have made amazing improvement in their games. Bays and Thortnon look like they may take a while to get their legs back after injury problems and long layoffs. Bays did flash moments when she showed her potential as a good shooter, defender, rebounder, and all around complete athlete. She will most likely progress fairly rapidly as the season goes on. Clemons looks like the one who will bang with the opponent's toughest post. We had long arms on defense seemingly everywhere. So many blocks and steals.
One player who seemed to be ok but kind of lost in the shuffle was Dee Dee Williams. We can still count on putting her on the opponent's best scorer, for example when we play against Rachel Banham, Maggie Lucas, or even Jordan Hooper. However, as a defensive specialist, she might get less playing time this year. Perry already looks to be a more complete player, even though it will take her a while to pick up some of the finer points of Big Ten defense.
We played with a lot of speed and poise, and our assist to turnover ratio was very good. This has been a problem in the past. KK will get ahead of herself sometimes, but she is a really good team leader and makes up for turnovers by making a lot of assists and steals, along with being a very capable scorer. Wilson has improved and continues to play ahead of her age.
So there wasn't much competition, but the tone has been set. This team is fast, moves the ball well, boxes out well for rebounding, is tough to shoot over, and will be a lot of fun to watch this season. Some defensive rotations were late and they will be working on that. One really good sign was that the team never let up from beginning to end. That is the standard of play set by UConn in the past 15 or 20 years. Play hard and at full speed no matter what the score. I have been waiting for this kind of persistent effort. It looked like the team was channeling Shereka Wright, one of our all time greats who played hard every second of every game. Also, some years our team has been challenged to score enough points. This team seems to have more scoring options than any team in recent history. Yes the Big Ten conference season will be a grind and the competition will be fierce. This team seems to have the personnel to grind through it with depth and effort. Last year's team finished 25-9. Expect this team to have a similar record, maybe even better.
With preseason rankings of #23 in the coaches poll, and #18 in the AP poll, the country has taken notice of our team. I will be surprised if this team falls out of the top 25 all season. The Final Four? Who knows? Probably not, but you never can tell. Let the regular season begin!